The Systemic Design Association (SDA) emerged from the expansive learning from the Relating Systems Thinking and Design symposia. The first RSD was held by Birger Sevaldson as a graduate seminar at Oslo School of Architecture and Design (AHO) in 2012, to discuss how systems thinking could be interpreted and related to design thinking and design practice. Since then, proponents have organized annual symposia dedicated to systemic design. The Systemic Design Research Network (SDRN) was formed between AHO & OCAD University, as a cooperative research group to “advance systemic design as integrated design discipline,” with Birger, Harold Nelson, Peter Jones and Alex Ryan. A standing committee was formed with Silvia Barbero and Jodi Forlizzi. In October 2018, in conjunction with RSD7, the Systemic Design Association was formed at its first general assembly at Politecnico di Torino and announced at the symposium.
Today, the SDA is a democratic, non-profit scholarly association based on academic and industry relationships and invites faculty and students worldwide to become members, participate in events, and share research. SDA is a membership organization recognized by the global design community and is represented as a systems society of the International Federation of Systems Research.
Systems theory and design developed clear interdisciplinary connections during the Ulm School of Design and Buckminster Fuller’s design science era, resulting in the design methods movement (Rittel, Alexander, JC Jones and Archer). Systemic design is distinguished from service or experience design in terms of scale, social complexity and integration – it is concerned with higher-order systems that entail multiple subsystems (that might be defined services). Systemic design brings human-centred design to complex, multi-stakeholder service systems by integrating systems thinking and its methods. It adapts from known design competencies – form and process reasoning, social and generative research methods, and sketching and visualization practices – to describe, map, propose and reconfigure complex social systems.
The SDA is committed to the co-evolution of systemic design, adapting each field’s preferred core disciplinary methods and mobilizing knowledge across practitioners and scholars. The SDA supports the efforts of advanced design practice to lead programs of strategic scale and higher complexity (e.g., social policy, healthcare, education, urbanization), adapt systems thinking methods, and creatively push the boundaries beyond the popular modes of systems dynamics and soft systems.
The proceedings of the Relating Systems Thinking and Design (RSD) Symposia have been documented since RSD2 as a kind of foundation for the emergence of research (techne and empirical studies) and inquiry (praxis and phronesis) defining the discipline. As scholarship has further evolved through these discourse communities, we have curated and edited a series of journal publications in FORM Akademisk and She Ji (primarily) and an edited volume in the Springer Systems Science series. New courses show up at universities in Europe and the Americas, beyond those represented in the RSD discourse, as the interdiscipline grows in depth and applicability.
Through the RSD symposium, discourses and publications have been developed for the following areas of research:
- Strategic Design and Social Systems
- Systems Oriented Service Design
- Advanced Design Methods and Systems Thinking
- Systems Theory in Design
- Teaching Systemic Design and Systemic Literacy